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Ross Bonander The Hockey Writers

Published on Friday, June 19, 2015





Top Agitators a Scarcity in Upcoming Draft

Early in the Seinfeld episode where George tries to take home the Frogger arcade game, Kramer mentions an electrician named Slippery Pete who might be able to help.

“Is he good, Kramer?”

“Oh he’s the best. And the worst.”

This succinct description of Slippery Pete aptly defines the agitator: a sh*t-starter and occasionally a bully, the agitator is a polarizing player who fans love, hate, or love to hate.

For those who despise agitators regardless of what team they’re on, good news: for all its talent, this draft class is short on world class agitators.

Connor Hobbs

Connor Hobbs (Credit: Keith Hershmiller)

Connor Hobbs (Credit: Keith Hershmiller)

The mildest agitator of this modest group, Hobbs is actually something of a strange success story. He opened the year in Medicine Hat, playing a dozen games through late October before requesting a trade. In the meantime he spun out a few games for the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League before landing with the Regina Pats.

In Medicine Hat his role on defense was minimal; in Regina he was thrown onto the team’s top defensive pairing. He took to it, applying what Cody Nickolet describes as an abrasive and chippy style of play.

Nickolet, who has him ranked at #18 among WHL prospects, writes:

“Hobbs is punishing in the way he plays defence…is extremely aggressive with his body contact and often hits to hurt…is not shy to step up into the neutral zone and bury opposing players…will be a human missile if he can get up to 6’1.5 and closer to 210 pounds.”

Other scouts like Hobbs too, with ISS, NHL Central Scouting and Future Considerations all ranking him in the top 100.

Robin Kovacs

[Photo use unavailable]

In NHL Central Scouting’s final list of international skaters, Swedes hold 7 of the top 10 slots. Forward Robin Kovacs holds one of them, and aside from getting under the opposition’s skin, Kovacs has in spades a couple of things scouts look for: his compete level is very high, and his shot is fantastic. He hustles and he can score. In many ways he’s what drafts are made for: the high-flying kid with so much potential whose ceiling seems unimaginably high.

Now do a Google image search of him and you won’t need more than a couple images before you begin to understand how Kovacs agitates. Alex Ovechkin is not an agitator, but when he was younger, his goal celebrations agitated plenty of people on and off the ice. Antics unbecoming of a hockey player is how traditionalists might phrase it.

Blueshirt Banter profiled Kovacs yesterday, here’s what their European writer Alex Nunn had to say about the 6’0″ 170 lbs Kovacs in this regard:

“He plays with an edge and likes to agitate, though at this point he lacks the bulk and strength to be consistently successful in that role.”

Good insight. The worst kind of agitator is the one who can’t back it up.

Jesse Gabrielle

Jesse Gabrielle (Credit: Keith Hershmiller)

Jesse Gabrielle (Credit: Keith Hershmiller)

No taller than 6’0″, Jesse Gabrielle weighs anywhere from 205 to 217 lbs, depending on the source.

Gabrielle, formerly with Brandon but now teammates with Connor Hobbs in Regina, is probably the Dub’s premier pest. His 23-21-44 points in 66 games speaks to his scoring touch, but his 112 PIMs perhaps speak just as loudly.

Cody Nickolet writes that Gabrielle,

“… sometimes prefers to go through defenders instead of around them, which isn’t always a good thing…throws loud and thunderous hits but does seem to pick his spots well in that regard…is very chippy and likes to talk after whistles…seems to enjoy the agitating role but can sometimes get carried away and take bad penalties…”

Anthony Mauro of Draftbuzz calls him “an up and coming smashmouth forward who likes to stir things up,” and in Christopher Ralph’s prospect notes he calls Gabrielle, “an irritant Ox – A big lummox who can irritate you to distraction or bowl you over,” adding that no matter what, “it’s never good for you!”

Honorable mentions include Mathieu Joseph, Caleb Jones, and even the Pats’ Austin Wagner. It’s possible a pest slipped past me; if so let me know about him in the comments.

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For coverage of over 150 prospects in the upcoming draft, check out THW’s The Next Ones: NHL 2015 Draft Prospect Guide, available for the Kindle and all other e-reader formats. It is also now available at iTunes.


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